VIII. A Letter to Tim Leary


7 JAN 71

Ol’ Buddy, I’m not going to say that I am surprised at the line you have been taking, because I’m not.

Actually you are just losing a battle that I have been watching you fight for years–and losing all the way. The battle is the fight against age. You can’t win it, you know.

I became aware of the battle through your own words. You described the Enemy well. You said “Kids! Don’t let the old men tell you what to do. If your parents tell you not to get high, and you want to get high, then do it.” And then that same evening you told your own daughter ­not to get high­. So–you knew the enemy, but you were losing ground to him even as you warned the rest of us.

You also told of the missile-phalli of the aged powers/sex mad Generals–warned against the hazards of ancient men behind the wheels of powerful machines. You decried most valiantly the horrid practice of the senile power-clutchers of “sending the young, seed-bearing men out to die while they sat safe to gain thereby.”

And yet today you urge the Weathermen to escalate the violence. My brother, by thine own words art thee condemned. Will you hurtle the bombs? I think not. Of course the success of the revolution would benefit you, so you “send forth the young etc.” to do the dirty work. Your morality is showing. I suggest that you go off by yourself, after abstaining from acid for two weeks, and take about 600 gamma. Take a mirror along, and do the number about asking yourself: “Who am I”. I guess you need someone to say to you once in a while SHUT UP/ TURN ON/ TUNE IN/ DROP OUT and I think you should drop out of the bag you have somehow gotten into at this point.

Undoubtedly the world produces and maybe even needs such things as Hell’s Angels and Weathermen–but “that is for those who are chosen”–I don’t think you are qualified–because you can’t advocate that shit, you have to do it, live it, and it is a youth-trip–I’m too old, & I know for a fact that you are older than I am. Fuck, even Dylan said: ‘You don’t need a Weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.’ By the same sense you don’t need to tell a Weatherman which way it blows, either.

One trouble may be that you are still too fucking literate–or visually biased in the McLuhan sense–you ought to stop writing all that bullshit & just dig the changes–rap to people–those records are tasty.

What we are going through is a cultural change, not a political one, no matter what those valiant, maya-blinded friends may think to call it. If we can succeed in making the necessary cultural adjustments to the technology, the political thing is moot. Polarization of the energy along a political axis will only bring suffering and destruction. Alchemy shows that the truth path is that of Transmutation. The energy must be directed along a social/cultural axis. The formation of a new cultural mode is alchemical Gold; the formation of a new political system is alchemical Lead. Violence is lead-bullets-death. Love is gold-true value-life. Only by the constant effort of all of us will we succeed in directing the energy in the right direction.

You know that I am a true revolutionary, and have given myself to the cause of the elevation of human consciousness and the new cultural mode. And yet I am an American, an Earthman and a lover. Listen to the music. I too have been, and still am, in prison. And yet I cannot see myself as a criminal. I think the real criminals are those such as Regan and Nixon–who use power to enforce a social ‘norm’ or attitude.

I come from a long line of legal and public service tradition. I grew up around government. I have the strangest feeling that the U.S. Constitution is a ‘magical’ document, & that there is tremendous alchemical significance in America.

I think that the present dross of oppressive ‘laws of prohibition’ are in violation of the true Constitution–and the only right thing is to get rid of them–the Laws, not the system. Without the supression of cultural transition the system will change too, as well as the economic structure. The key seems to lie in the basic premise inherent in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution– that is, the ‘Right of Personal Domain’–the right of adults to do whatever they will, providing that all parties consent. That is, a crime must be bound not only by intent but also by consent (the only example of this now is rape).

Tyranny is the term given by people to a government which is acting in a socially repressive fashion–and is not dependent upon any political ideology–any government which makes crimes by the act of passing a law, where the crime is simply a form of cultural behavior is a tyranny. The development of the conception of government and the social use of power throughout history shows the steady limitation of ‘kingly’ power in the dictation of social function and cultural manifestation.

Once practically everything a person did was subject to Machiavellian limitations and description. Not only were you burned at the stake for your beliefs, but you couldn’t say much about just about anything–or assemble for any reason. You could be displaced from ownership, or taxed at any whim of the leader. As men became more aware, the things which were formally expected of government became unbearable, and concessions (revolution) were demanded. Sometimes the concessions were granted and the government form remained, sometimes the concessions were resisted and the government was overthrown. Usually the later course led to great chaos and trouble–the granting of the demands of the people as in the first case in every case led to a radical alteration in form­–but with less suffering by the people.

The revolution of 1776 in America was a war of Independence, not an overthrow of the government. America was just severing an umbilicus–not transplanting a heart! And the Constitution is a really remarkable work, really something special in history. Compare the English system with the French to get a good modern view of ‘concessionary’ revolution versus overthrow.

We must have relief, of that I am determined–“Don’t tread on me.”–“Give me Liberty or give me Death”–So I feel, but there is in these yet the affirmative that if you don’t tread, the snakes will not bite, that if the Liberty is forthcoming the dealing of death is withheld.

I am a patriot to the true spirit of man. I will to be free, yet I seek not to destroy needlessly. Hell, I just want to be able to get high & make love & good music & get together. I think the thing we need to do is get the governing powers everywhere to yield on the question of consent and crime. To eliminate the dope laws, the gambling laws, the prostitution and porn laws. If this is done, I am sure the rest will follow.

If you still aren’t convinced, I can be more explicit. I have given a lot of thought to this, and you know how thorough I am about what I do. So why don’t you spend some time on convincing people of the need to legalize the use of psi-substances–there are millions in the world who use them in religion. The legal status would quickly eliminate the black market (God damn the pusherman) and its horrors &death (God rest Janis & Jimi; Neal Cassidy (sic) & Terry & millions like them).

Also, how can a government hope to continue which makes a large part of the youth ‘criminals’ for what they KNOW is no crime. They just consider the government who labels them to be the criminals–and that is not politics–just horse sense! What irony–the gov’t overthrown for non-political reasons (an ‘anarchist’ is someone, who although he has no plan for a new system, has had it with the present one, & considers no gov’t at all better than continuing). Well, look at the apartheid way the kids look at voting and all that–they reject the system that makes them outlaws.

If you can give us one strong base–one country with the guts to stand up and say: In this country there is true freedom–and will permit the use of the psychedelics and a world headquarters–a real haven/heaven, where we can produce our own sacraments without fear–build plants, grow plants–build music studios–get stoned and fight for the rights of all human beings to have access to these things.

Remember–the Grand Canyon was made without explosives–so too, we can have our way, all we have to do is be happy & turn on–the work of change is as inevitable as the river­– a turned on world cannot play the games that now are threatening the very existence of life itself on the planet (What if they gave a war and nobody came?).

Tim, I want to let you in on something that was revealed to me. This planet is Paradise. The most beautiful of all the rocks in the cosmos. A work of art. And we are the most priviliged of beings to be incarnate here. The goal of life is happiness–not easy, but that which is easy is not part of the value/concept of the cosmic game–the analogy of the path which climbs.


I think the high vegetable content of prison food is making me uptight & mean. Haven’t had a decent piece of meat in months.

At least give the gov’t an alternative–like how come the Weatherfreaks don’t say ‘repeal the prohibition or blooey’–making it understood that the prohibition is the dope/gambling/prostitution type laws. Oppose the cultural oppression. I really doubt that dynamite makes right. But I don’t think the nerds in the gov’t know what we want. Or rather, they think we want what they would want–BUT WE ARE NOT THEM (Are you them? Do you want wars and political power?).

No one should hold a public office past the age of 40 (the judge who sent me to prison is past 80). Fuck–from 18 to 40 is plenty long enough for power handling. Who would want to die with all that distortion of power-karma on his soul?

My ‘revolutionary reading’ list:

            Human Zoo, Naked Ape – Desmond Morris

            African Genesis, Social Contract – R. Ardvery

            Peter Principle – L.J. Peter

            Parkinson’s Laws (various), C.W. Parkinson

            Fat of the Land – Vilhalamon Steffansson

            Structural Anthropology – Claude Levi-Strauss

            Evolution and Human Behaviour – Alex Alland Jr.

            Gutenberg Galaxy, Understanding Media– Marshall McLuhan

            The Teachings of Don Juan – C. Castaneda

(The Teachings are a remarkable example of cultural confrontation between visual-literate and oral-tacticle. Read the last 5 in sequence & you may find that you missed the real point of the Teachings before. I got a real heavy flash from it, even Castaneda never figured it out. We will have to put our heads together some time about it.)

Now I got to ask something of you. PLEASE consider this communication as personal and confidential. Digest, absorb (curse if you will) and then BURN IT.I mean it for you alone. I don’t want to see it turning up somewhere. I don’t need or want any publicity or any ego-power shit. I can only do my part if I can stay as invisible as possible (by now you must have had some thoughts about the problems of high visibility).

I am designing a new musical instrument which will blow your mind–music can do that, you know.

Be cool

Have love

Drop out


with great thanks to Mark McCloud for providing a copy of this letter for historical purposes.

Portions of this letter appear in the Bear Owsley free, non-commercial biography White Lightning, available for PDF download here.

Bear Owsley’s writings can still be found on his website:

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